Bureaucracy - rant

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    difficult child 1 has been trying for years to get an apprenticeship, with no real success. He's had apprenticeships dangled in front of him (in one case, for a year) but he's now too old for a standard placement. He was on the books of a job placement agency for people with disabilities. At one point they were sending him for at least two interviews a week. However, for reasons unknown and not forewarned, he fell off their books, apparently through changing regulations or our wonderful government welfare agency, Centrelink.

    So we had to re-apply. This meant getting him referred from Centrelink, getting doctors reports, getting assessments etc. Since it was a re-application all of this should have been automatic.

    In the process of organising re-application, we (family) found him a job. We really had to push hard - difficult child 1 had to initially work for nothing with absolutely no prospect of employment. I had to do a hard sell job - and at some stage they put him on the payroll despite initially saying they couldn't afford to give him an apprenticeship. But they CAN currently employ him as a labourer, it seems. And as it now turns out, if the disability agency had been involved difficult child 1 may have been able to get an apprenticeship with these people after all, through the Wage Assistance Scheme in which the difference in salary required for an apprenticeship is met by the government, as part of an initiative to boost the number of tradesmen as well as get people off the pension and into the workforce.

    However - difficult child 1 still doesn't know what he's getting paid. Nor does he know his official commencement date. He's had no pay slips in the two months he's been working for these people. They told him that the person who organises pay slips was on leave, it would all be sorted out when they got back from leave.

    Legally he is supposed to notify Centrelink within two weeks of beginning a job, of his start date, his hours and his wage. But we can't tell them what we don't know. Failure to tell them means some nasty penalties. So I rang to at least let them know he was working, they said to not worry too much but to get the info to them when we could. I have receipt numbers from all my calls, and they do not deny I have called them.

    Yet now they're getting nasty. He got a letter from them telling him he pension payment had not only been stopped (which I had requested - any overpayment has to be paid back) but that they had cancelled ALL his entitlements as 'punishment' for failing to give them the information they wanted (it start date, hours worked, pay rate etc). They have even told him to tear up his concession card (which the law says he should be ale to use for the next year). They say he "failed to report" even though I told them as soon as I could (and they said at the time it was soon enough) and difficult child 1 himself has actually been in the Centrelink office since then, on a day off, with his disability agency caseworker (on their own time, desperately trying to sort out this mess).

    So I rang up Centrelink. They said I have to get the info from the employer. Mind you, they have themselves sent letter to the employer asking for this information - so if they can't get it, why punish difficult child 1 & me?

    Centrelink wants me to ring the employer, but I said it just doesn't look right when you're 24 and Mummy rings the boss to make this sort of enquiry. However, it IS what the disability agency are supposed to do - only Centrelink refuses to complete the application form. "Not until we get the information," they told us.

    Centrelink insist that we must have the information, before they can let the disability agency back into difficult child 1's life. I say we can't get the information unless the disability agency can go into his workplace.

    When I rang Centrelink about the "failure to report" I was told he had received a letter which stated dates on which he had to report. Any such letter was not recognised as such (by him or me; and it was allegedly intended for someone with a disability). I have asked for a copy to be sent.

    I also pointed out that difficult child 1 himself was present in person in a Centrelink office on 26 May and was not told then about the "need to report" and was also not told of the impending cancellation (dated a little over a week later). I was told on 11 June that difficult child 1's presence in a Centrelink office did not constitute him "reporting". If this is the case, Centrelink's definition of "report" needs to be made more clear. I'm not exactly stupid - I didn't understand it, so how the H could difficult child 1 be expected to?

    At that meeting in Centrelink at Caringbah on 26 May difficult child 1 WAS told that before he could go back onto the disability agency's books he had to do a Job Place Assessment. difficult child 1 said he was reluctant to do this, as it would jeopardise his current full-time job to take time off work to do an assessment to see if he was fit for the task he was currently doing. He felt it should be self-evident. Since then a Job Place Assessment was done with difficult child 1 over the phone in his lunch hour, as organised by the disability agency (despite him not being on their books). And yet I am getting conflicting information as to the validity of this method - it appears to have not been recognised on his Centrelink file.

    We are stuck in a Catch 22 situation so today I rang my local MP (equivalent to congressman). This needs someone high up to unravel the Gordian knot of red tape and fast. Preferably before his wedding date of 22 November. It would be good if he had an apprenticeship by then - but this is only possible if he can get back onto the agency's books.

    The chances are very high of someone like difficult child 1 needing ongoing support in the workplace to ensure he is not being exploited. The current difficulty in getting information about his hours and pay rate are a classic example. Even Centrelink has expressed concern that he may currently be in a position of being exploited, implying "what are we doing about it?" What I am doing about it, is trying to get things back to where they should be, so the relevant support agency can be permitted to do its job.

    And now this is turning nastier. It is looking like Centrelink are trying to make this particular disability agency look really bad. difficult child 1's caseworker was with another client down at the local office when she overheard a loud conversation that was not only about difficult child 1, it mentioned him by name AND said that difficult child 1 had lost his pension and entitlements because the disability agency had tried to get him into the workforce when he just wasn't capable. This morning the boss of the disability agency rang me to discuss the problems. That is when she told me about the way difficult child 1's name was being loudly thrown around the Centrelink office along with negative gossip about their agency.

    While we were talking, an email came in to her about difficult child 1's application to get back on the agency's files - it has been refused by Centrelink. Apparently when difficult child 1 and his disability agency caseworker were in the Centrelink office "to be seen" (apparently required as part of the procedure to put him back on the agency's books), the Centrelink staffer was trying to tell them that before they could put difficult child 1 back on the agency's books, difficult child 1 would have to do a Job Capacity Assessment.

    "But I'm already working," he told them. "Working full-time - I can't take time off for a Job Capacity Assessment, I might lose my job. Why do I have to do one? If I'm already working, surely it's obvious that I can work?"

    But the staffer was insistent, so difficult child 1 looked up his diary and told her when he next RDO would be. "I couldn't come in until then," he said. "Or I might lose my job."

    And from what I was told - today's email is from the psychologist attached to the Job Capacity Assessment staff with Centrelink, saying that they were refusing difficult child 1's application to be put back on the disability agency's books, "because he clearly isn't interested in getting a job, since he was refusing to do a Job Capacity Assessment."

    I was still talking to the agency boss when I remembered last night's mail - more official paperwork for difficult child 1 which he handed to me. I fetched it and read it out over the phone - it was an assessment form for difficult child 1 to fill in. HOw did he feel the job placement agency had done its job? Had they helped him with getting a job? Or were they no help at all?

    So it's looking like someone at Centrelink is trying to shoot down difficult child 1's job placement agency, and they're using difficult child 1's files to do it with. Meanwhile they're really making a mess of his life and risking losing his job for him.

    And also meanwhile - WE'RE concerned that difficult child 1's employer still hasn't given him any pay slips. Although it's possible they have, and difficult child 1 simply didn't know what it was. It was for this reason we registered him with this particular agency - because their supervision and support was supposed to be ongoing. So is his boss ripping him off? Is he even getting paid at all? Or is his boss a really nice bloke who is just useless with paperwork?

    The only way to be sure, it to send in the disability agency as support. The employer knows about them and is expecting them.

    So now things are a bad mess. difficult child 1 has a job (we hope). He is at least getting work experience. It is possible he's being exploited, but a more serious concern is that Centrelink are taking out their frustrations on difficult child 1. He has not only lost his pension, but also his concession card which pays for his medication. I had already asked for his pension payment to be suspended (since he was getting paid by his new boss - I think), but they're now acting like we were trying to steal from the government, and worse. They shouldn't have cancelled everything. AND they're publicly talking about him and his file by name, AND they're trying to get him to say bad things about his agency AND they are now blocking any chance he has of getting an apprenticeship.

    By the time I got to talk to my MP, it was too late for anything to be done. I now have to wait until Monday before they can start kicking rear ends for us.

    The agency boss is ready to rip Centrelink apart. When difficult child 1 finds out all this (because it's only today that we've begun to understand what is happening and why) then he will want to take the place apart too. And I'm in the queue now as well.

    It is indeed fortunate that some time ago difficult child 1 authorised me to act on his behalf in communicating with Centrelink. Can you imagine how ANY difficult child would cope with this sort of rubbish?

    What really amazes me, AND cheeses me off big time, is that Centrelink has ALL the information they need - they have more than I do. Centrelink has access to every bank account difficult child 1 has and know exactly how much money he has and ANY activity of every account, they have his tax file number (like social security number as far as employment and taxation goes), they have the information of every employer who asks for difficult child 1's tax file number (an indication that the person is working). They could look at his bank accounts and see if any regular payments are going in from anywhere, as well as track the bank accounts of the people putting money into his accounts. They can do this for anybody.

    SO they MUST know he's working, even without me telling them. But because nobody has filled it out on a form, they are angry. One area wants to know details of his job; another group insists he's lazy and not interested in working. They say he "hasn't reported" when I've rung them repeatedly AND difficult child 1 has visited in person.

    I'm just about ready to take the place apart. Centrelink, I mean. I AM going to request access to his file under Freedom of Information; I'm going to insist on an apology (to difficult child 1, to me and to the disability agency); I'm going to insist on SOMEONE getting difficult child 1 an apprenticeship with the full benefits of the wage Subsidy Scheme; I'm going to insist on difficult child 1's rights being restored. And if I can, I'm going to make this VERY, messily, public.

    It takes a lot to get me this angry. It's really quite an achievement for Centrelink, that they have managed to get me this riled. But then, they have a lot of practice.

    And in less than a year, difficult child 3 is eligible for a Disability Support Pension. Oh joy...

  2. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I understand just a little of the disability system here in the states and nothing at about your system down under. However, I have two things that stick out. First, you questioned whether difficult child 1 was even getting paid for the work he's doing. I don't understand that. Does he have money? I can't remember whether he lives with you are not. He would have to know if he was getting a pay envelope. Does the pay slip come with the pay? Are we talking about cash here or a check?

    I think to heck with what the company would think about the mom of a 24 year old calling to check on the pay slip (and pay in general). It needs to be clear what is going on with this situation. I woud worry there was some advantage being taken as well. In the meantime, I would tell difficult child 1 very clearly to save every slip of paper that passes through his fingers at work. "Put them in your pocket throughout the day and then empty them at night on your dresser."

    In regards to Centrelink, my head is spinning. But more importantly, they have a reason to be fearful!!!! Go for it Marg - if anyone can make a difference, it's you.

  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    husband tracked it down - difficult child 1 IS getting paid but it's going straight into his bank account - direct transfer, so no paperwork. But he's still not getting any pay slips and this is a legal requirement. We're wary, but from what we can work out we think they're good craftsmen but slack with their bookkeeping, rather than shonky. difficult child 1 knows to look for pay slips, he's been asking for them and told he has to wait until their bookkeeper comes back from long service leave. If he weren't getting paid it would still be OK because he could claim the experience -we're getting THAT desperate to find him something long-term and in this field. The Workplace Relations laws that our former Prime Minister bulldozed in have really undermined working conditions and worker's rights in this country, especially for young people and first-timers. We need to know, for example, if difficult child 1 is working as a casual, as a permanent (you can work full-time and still be casual), on contract, under the table (illegal, but often done) or what. It will be legal because they asked for his tax file number (which should have reassured me he is getting paid -something, at least). We used to have guaranteed minimum wage, but the news laws removed that as well.

    Meanwhile Centrelink told me they have written to the employer three times already and not had a response.

    difficult child 1 has money saved up from his years on the pension, so he doesn't really budget or think about it. Until recently he's tended to not spend much money. husband noticed that he's currently spending more than he's earning, so we need to talk to him about that because of the way his bank account works. We may need to put in some changes. His expenses will be higher because of having to pay car expenses and fuel for travel. Also, he's been eating out a lot (so he can spend more time with girlfriend).

    He's living at home but often sleeps over with a friend. He & girlfriend are "waiting until they're married" but are at the moment looking for a place to live once they're married. it won't be easy - would you believe he will need a letter from his employers, stating how much he earns!

    I'm still concerned that if I ring his employers it will look bad, but surely it won't look so bad if his fiance rings? She's another Warrior Female and very capable of organising (needs to be, if she wants to marry difficult child 1). If she rings to say he needs it so they can get a place together, it might carry more weight.

    After I posted this I got a phone call from easy child (for my birthday). I told her everything and when I got to the bit where Centrelink staff were tossing difficult child 1's name around and saying how this person's (difficult child 1's) pension had been cancelled because he had failed to report, and his job agency were causing him problems (not true) easy child was horrified. "That's a major breach of confidentiality," she said.

    As I said to easy child - difficult child 1 has me to help with this, and even I am struggling. How many people like difficult child 1 (and less capable) are falling through the cracks because they have neither the capability nor the strength to fight this ghastly mess?

    husband was looking at the paperwork tonight which refers to the pension being cancelled - the dates make no sense. Plus they backdated the cancellation to before my first phone call to them, when I let them know he was working so please SUSPEND payments. They're not supposed to cancel the pension like this unless there has been a criminal breach of the social security rules (such as deliberately cheating the system for personal gain over a long period of time).

    Another thing that puzzles and angers me - I first rang them on 6 May to say, "He's working." (legally we MUST do this of be penalised). At the time they said, "Give us the details when you have them."

    I was told there was a warning letter sent to him which we didn't know about - it's the one saying he had to report (giving dates, I believe) and which is now referred to by the letter we DO have, stating his pension and all associated benefits have been cancelled due to his "failure to report" (almost a 'nyah, nyah' letter). When I spoke to the Centrelink official today, he said, "You must mean the letter dated 29 May."
    (I asked for a copy of it to be sent)

    So in difficult child 1's name I reported his change of work status on 6 May. difficult child 1 visited Centrelink on 26 May (nothing was said to him at that time about his pension being under threat). Apparently three days later the warning letter got sent. The same day, our computer was damaged by a storm. The following Monday (2 June) I collected the new computer and got a phone call (while in the carpark with husband collecting the computer) from the disability agency to let me know that they had organised Centrelink to do the Job Capacity Assessment on difficult child 1, that day, over the phone in his lunch hour.
    5 June Centrelink wrote the letter cancelling the pension, backdated to 5 May! It states, "your pension has been cancelled from 5 May because you have not reported." This implies he has not reported since 5 May, which is definitely not the case.

    We received the letter on Tuesday (10 June). I spoke to Centrelink on 11 June. Today (13 June) they emailed the disability agency basically saying the agency can't put difficult child 1 on their books because he's clearly not interested in working.

    So on the one hand he's being penalised for doing the right thing and notifying them about his new job (and needed the pension suspended but not cancelled, for a year); on the other hand he's a lazy layabout not interested in finding a job (and therefore should never have had the pension cancelled). Plus they're publicly badmouthing him and the disability agency and breaching confidentiality.

    And yet - the same letter that says his pension has been cancelled from 5 May (when I requested payments be suspended on 6 May) shows pension payments were made on 23 May.

    On 10 June Centrelink also arranged for a letter to difficult child 1 which is basically a survey form asking him to describe how much help the disability agency have been (or not) in him finding a job. They make it clear - "this is not to check up on you; it's to check up on how well the agency has done its job."
    This appears to have been sent with the belief that difficult child 1 is unhappy with the agency. If I hadn't been in such close contact with the agency, I suspect right now difficult child 1 would very much be blaming them for his current problems.

    So looking at it all - it seems to me that Centrelink are trying to shaft this agency and don't care who they damage to get at them. Right now, it seems they're using difficult child 1 as a means to get at the agency.

    The Disability Employment Network pays these agencies generously, so there is a lot of competition between these agencies for clients. There is also a lot of suspicion of these agencies, and government departments which can show good control over expenditure are looked on favourably.

    The end of our tax year is in two weeks' time. I do wonder if some penny pincher has chosen to get this agency reduced to ashes in order to justify a saving on the books.

    Who knows? All I know is, my kid is the meat in the sandwich.

  4. Marg,

    What a frustrating and compelling story and situation! I thought that employment programs for the disabled here in the states were really as bad as they could get, but it seems you are experiencing the worst of bureaucracy and turf guarding as well.

    We have completely separate programs here in the States for disability payments (Social Security) and employment for the disabled (Vocational Rehabilitation). I have worked for both agencies - as a disability adjudicator for Social Security and as a vocational counselor, job placement counselor and manager for Vocational Rehabilitation, and I know the programs intimately. It is extremely difficult to obtain Social Security Disability benefits unless you meet what is called a "listing". These lisitings are all serious and grave disabilities and they are purposely difficult to meet. However, if you meet them and you have the recent medical evidence you are there. Otherwise, you go through 2 levels of denial, ask for a hearing, ask for an appeal , etc. It's a very lengthy process, and it can take 3 years or longer. Supposedly, the Social Security Administration encourages those on Disability payments to go to work, and they have a program called"ticket to work". You are allowed to make a threshold amount of income, and keep some of your benefits - and most importantly - your health coverage. The truth is that once you earn a painfully low amount of money in one month - called Substantial Gainful Employment , you are on the radar to be re-evaluated. A phrase that sends fear and trembling to those on Disability payments (or it should). Once you get into that loop, you are in trouble. My boss, who is a quad - meets a listing for payments. She is an incredible woman, who is a practicing attorney and lives independently. She went back to work and immediately contacted Social Security. They continued to send payments, and she put all of the money in the bank. A year later they hit her up big time and called her into their offices . They would have humilated another person - but not her....Of course she paid back the money. But she is still eligible for other Social Security programs but I cannot talk her into using them - she's just that turned off.

    Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Security are two separate agencies- one is state managed and one is federally managed. They do not work together. As a vocational counselor and job placement counselor I worked with individuals who could work, we found them jobs, but they were "uninsurable" due to their disabilities and the deplorable way insurance companies are allowed to work in this country. Sadly, more than a few of these wonderful people had to QUIT their jobs because they needed medical treatment. I became very impassioned about this issue and was able to testify regarding several cases before the General Accounting Office. This was ten years ago, and nothing has happened - it fact it is worse. After a while, I realized that I was swimming against the tide - helping to empower individiuals to live fulfilling , productive lives while the massive organization that says they are helping people to get to work penalizes them when they do. After I went to a fund raising event to help one of my clients raise money to pay his medical bills (while he was working in a job I placed him in) - I realized it was time to move on, and I sadly left my profession to move to a new field.

    My personal belief is that Disability systems should be seamless - individuals should be protected moving in and out of work. Disabled individuals have good times and bad times. Companies go out of business, compassionate bosses get new jobs - and the new boss doesn't want to take the time to accomodate the job for the disabled individual. If Disability payments are easier and quicker to obtain, and individuals are not penalized for trying to work and be productive - I think you would find many more disabled people being willing to work "above the table". in my humble opinion.

    What we have now is turf guarding and unwillingness to work with other agencies to meet the needs of the disabled individual. Working together takes effort - but it can be done. Marg, I think you are seeing the worst of this with your two agencies and I am saddened to hear that this is a bigger problem than I thought. If folks would step back from behind their desks and talk as real people this rubbish would never transpire. And the "talk" around the office about difficult child? Sad to say, I'm not surprised by this. I was often outraged by the way some of my coworkers would talk about our clients in staffings. This is the main reason that husband and I have decided not to involve our difficult child in Vocational Rehabilitation . We know he is eligible , but given my work history with the group, and the fact that husband spends most of his hours suing the agencies in Federal Court on the behalf of wronged clients... well you get the picture...

    I do agree with you about your reluctance to contact the employer. After all difficult child 1 is an adult and was hired as such. Here in the States, agencies are held accountable by how many "successful placements" they make - meaning a placement that lasts at least 90 days. Trust me, agencies will try to take credit for a placement that a family member arranged - because they are under the funding gun. I always spent time working on a networking list with my clients - because the truth is that most people are hired because of personal relationships- especially disabled people. Knowing that this organization wants to "take credit" and that the other organization is trying to ding them - gives you some power in this situation. Perhaps you can use that power to help resolve difficult child 1's situation. I would help to remind them that all of this is really about difficult child I- without whom their program would have no reason to exist. I think that governmental agencies often forget this notion. Marg, I have all of the faith in the world that you will remind them.

    OK, rant over....
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member


    I rang Centrelink yesterday (Monday) prepared to tell them how much difficult child 1 is being paid, according to information from his bank balance. But they didn't want tat because it's net, not gross. I was also given the unpleasant news that the treating doctor's report was NOT on file, nor was there any record of a Job Capacity Assessment having been done (it was given to him over the phone). They were very unhelpful and very unsympathetic. I was almost screaming at the woman - "You are discriminating against difficult child 1 by penalising him for something which is due to his disability." I also said I was a whisker away from going to the media. Then I rang my local MP again and left a message to say that the problem was worse - now vital records were missing from the file, which would only slow us down even more.

    Today - Tuesday - I got some results. It seems one (or more) of my emails found its way to the right person. I also think my MP's staff were putting in the boot for us. I got an extremely apologetic phone call saying that difficult child 1's pension had been reinstated (with payment suspended, as I requested) and that is was very unfortunate that these problems should have happened. She did make it clear that in a fortnight's time, we MUST have his income details lodged or the pension gets cancelled again.

    Plus - difficult child 1 is once more registered with the disability agency. So his caseworker from the agency is going to go in to his workplace for him and begin to sort out the mess, including getting the income information we need to call off the dogs.

    Nothing was said about the major breach of confidentiality. I suspect the person who rang was desperately hoping I wouldn't bring it up. difficult child 1 wants blood over that, he wants compensation.

    I also found out something else interesting (and very alarming) - whenever difficult child 1 has been over-paid (such as when they failed to stop payment of his pension even after we notified them of his income while working), he gets a bill to pay them back. And whenever they send someone a bill, it includes an added 10% as a fine. I said I felt that was inappropriate, when it's not his mistake. I was told that when ever we're fined, we can appeal. I said that how would we know? We're just sent a bill, it's not itemised. Centrelink says, "you were overpaid, you ow $x," you pay it because to NOT pay it can get very nasty.

    So I now have to draft another letter on difficult child 1's behalf, pointing out that he has NEVER incurred overpayment due to his own failures. I have asked for payment to be suspended when he has been earning - I think their failure to suspend payment should not incur a fine, on top of paying back the overpayment itself. Crikey, in a lot of places overpayment gets forgiven if it's not your doing. I mean, not even the bank does this! Does Centrelink pay us interest if their calculations are wrong and they don't pay us enough over the year? No. We're lucky if we ever find out.

    What a mess. But at least we're out of the Catch 22 loop at last. For the next two weeks.
  6. mama2lexxie

    mama2lexxie New Member

    Well thank goodness there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    I am very sorry you are having to deal with all of this.
  7. Masta

    Masta Member

    ohh marg,

    centerlink hasn't changed a bit!. Even after all these years since I have left Aust (10yrs this dec). They still treat people like **** and give people the run around.

    I think they are used to the average dole bludger ripping them off, so its hard to find a nice employee at their offices because they are use to being abused and threatened daily by people trying to get benefits whether its legit or not.

    Keep ya chin up. At least you are keeping on top of it, your difficult child is lucky to have you. There is no way he could understand all of this mess. Thank goodness you aren't sitting in the centerlink office for hours just to be turned away with no progress made, lucky you can do most of this over the phone.

    I understand how you feel about people falling thru the cracks. i see that happen allot and wonder the same thing myself. I find it too exhausting to fix the system… I'm having a hard enough time trying to get by fixing my own difficult children situation.

    keep us posted.
  8. Christy

    Christy New Member

    That is exactly what I was thinking as I was reading your initial post! I think beaucracy makes things so confusing and difficult because many people give up before completing the process. It would be impossible for many special needs individuals to navigate through the system if they were not given help or told where they go go to get it.

    Two good things anyway, at least difficult child 1 is actually getting paid, and more importantly, he has a warrior mum like you on his side :)

    Good luck wading through all the phone calls and paperwork!